Audio, Cooling, Software
As with most small notebooks, the sound quality coming out of the Dell XPS 13 isn’t going to rock your socks off, or even vibrate them mildly. But it isn’t bad either! Dell went with a pair of stereo speakers that actually direct out to the left and right, so while it might annoy a neighbor at a conference table, the result is a true stereo sound that works quite well. There is very little bass to be had, but that is mostly a function of size and notebook capacity than anything else. Should you plan to engage your ears in long term musical appreciation with the XPS 13 integrated speakers? No, but if you want to listen to the most recent edition of the PC Perspective Podcast then they’ll function just fine.
And if you need things to be loud for an outdoor listening experience, the speakers will definitely appease there. Compared to trying to listen to audio on my old Lenovo X230, the XPS 13 sounds like it’s using a megaphone.
Unlike some of the new Core M based products that will be shipping later this year that are fanless designs, the Dell XPS 13 does have one to keep the Broadwell-based Core i5-5500U cool under a full load. The fan was audible during heavy usage but didn’t exhibit any kind of high pitched whine or noise that you might expect for such a thin design. Even when pressured by intense CPU or GPU workloads, I would not called the sound levels obnoxious. Compared to a 2013 MacBook Air for example, maximum fan noise on the Dell XPS 13 is much lower, providing a good user experience all around.
Dell deserves some props for this, so I’ll just say right off the bat, pre-installed software annoyances were at a bare minimum for the XPS 13.
As with most machines recently, Dell has included the McAfee LiveSafe application suite that includes real-time data protection, parental controls and virus scanning. I haven’t been nagged to register it all yet, so Intel’s acquisition of the software giant might finally be resulting in some improved user experience!
Dell also has its own Backup and Recovery software to help setup initial data back and recovery options as this machine does not include a dedicated partition of the SSD with that data. Also, since you don’t have an optical drive included with the notebook you don’t have that option either – creating a new USB thumb drive with all necessary data to recover you system is a good idea for users very early after deployment.
The only other applications to fill up your task bar are Dropbox, Intel Rapid Storage Technology, a Realtek audio control panel and the HD Graphics driver. Dell appears to have put the XPS 13 on its list of machines they tread more carefully with, making sure that users that buy into the flagship Dell brand are not overly annoyed by software pop ups.